Episode 4 – Bloody Portovac!

Previously on Nursing Habits: Arkadia fits a 100kg dead body into a tiny body bag…
The last offices.


Day 2 on the job at ICU was a little less traumatizing than the previous one. The Intensive Care Unit felt quite intense, and intimidating. On this particular day, there were 3 patients. Mr. Duze had been in a coma for many months after a car accident and was on life support, unable to move or speak. I wondered where his mind was? Was he dreaming? Was he able to hear things around him? Would he want to be kept in a hospital bed with no control over his body? While euthanasia is a controversial subject, I think I’d rather be dead.

Angelic Male Nurse

If he wakes up, he would be oxygen dependent.

The second bed was occupied by a suicidal policeman, Mr. Rose, that had even went to the extent of putting himself inside a body bag before shooting himself in the head. I believe he had been airlifted and treated at another hospital before coming to our hospital to be stabilized. He was coming around okay but he was extremely violent and very determined to abscond. He eventually did escape, injuring two nurses in the process. His relatives were not too thrilled and they threatened to sue if he turned up dead, since he was still in a very suicidal state of mind. Police were sent on a search and they eventually found him running around town with his butt sticking out of his hospital gown. He never did return to the hospital and I wonder if he ended up pulling the plug on himself eventually.

The third patient was an elderly woman who had some op done (I can’t remember what), I just remember her having a portovac (a portable wound suction device, that allows fluid such as blood to be evacuated), because I was instructed to empty it with disastrous results. I just popped open the lid and the next thing I know, blood splattered out of the portovac right onto my face! I looked like I had just murdered someone and I was thoroughly mortified and writhing with terror. The nurses were not very supportive, knowing that it was only my second day in practical training, and I was pissed that they didn’t tell me that there was a special way to open the portovac.

Sr. Sterile

How did you make such a mess? Don’t you know how to open a portovac?
Go wash up and then come and change the linen!

I obliged, wondering to myself if the tone she used on me was uncalled for. Was it not her responsibility to warn me of things like these? I mean, it’s the first time in my life encountering a portovac. And for the first-time user it’s not blatantly obvious that it would splash unless you clamped the cord down. I washed my face about 5 times before I felt safe enough to continue. Then I wondered whether I should have been tested for HIV or any other infectious disease, but none of the staff seemed concerned, even though I later learnt that they should have reported it to the occupational health and safety nurse to make certain that I was okay. Luckily after checking for myself, there were no adverse effects. I was still feeling roughed up after Mrs. Khosa’s death, and now I was being reprimanded for something that really wasn’t my fault. Two days down and I was already feeling dejected and unsupported. So begins the rollercoaster ride through one crazy career.

Episode 3 – The Last Offices

Previously on Nursing Habits: on my first day as a nurse a patient went into cardiac arrest…it was an ordeal I never imagined I’d witness on my first day and I was horrified at what I saw. I was then instructed to perform the last offices on the body…

No matter how many times you read about the procedure in your text-book, you can never be prepared for it. I had to take Mrs. Khosa into an empty room in the ICU department. It was my first actual day of practical training. It just so happens that I had to experience my first death on that day too! I was completely terrified. The charge sister, Sr. Sterile, asked me to do the last offices. She knew full well that I was a pupil nurse with zero nursing experience, but she thoughtlessly left me alone with the body. Perhaps she wanted me to know the reality of nursing firsthand. More likely she didn’t really care about how I felt. I agreed to do it because I felt I had no other choice. I felt chills run down my spine and I cried quietly, wishing I could go home. Some of Mrs. Khosa’s beaded jewellery still hung around her neck. I started taking it off as carefully as I could but the remaining beads fell and scattered all over the floor to my absolute horror. I don’t know why but I likened it to it being a piece of her and I didn’t want to see it destroyed too.

My heart racing, I quickly began to pick them up. I had to get every last bead. Sr. Sterile caught me gathering beads and sternly told me not to waste time. “Leave the beads alone and start laying out the body!” she ordered. I nodded my head and as soon as she walked out I quickly finished gathering the beads. I couldn’t help but feel tortured. No nurse should have to go through this by themselves on their first day in a real hospital scenario. I couldn’t help but cry while I cleaned the body.  I removed all signs of her personality and covered the many puncture holes with cotton balls and tape, trying my hardest to close shut her  stiff jaw. I didn’t have a clue how to get the body into a shroud and I had completely overlooked the important steps of identifying the body and taking thumb prints. Sr. Sterile would crucify me. Thankfully the angelic male nurse came once again to my rescue. He told me that I needn’t worry, I would soon get used to dead people. I couldn’t see that happening and being a grown woman, I felt like a vulnerable and scared child. This nurse comforted me, learnt my name and cracked a few jokes to lighten the mood. He filled in the steps I missed and helped me tug and push the body around to get it into the body bag. He then told me to leave the body bag open and let the body lay there for an hour before taking her down to the mortuary.


Why do we have to keep her here for an hour?

Angelic Male Nurse

In case she wakes up..

Next on Nursing Habits: Arkadia has blood on her face, big disgrace!
Bloody Portovac

You might also be interested in learning about the final death in my nursing career that broke the camels back and made me step out of the land of nursing.

Episode 2 – My first day in training a patient dies…

Previously on Nursing Habits: Arkadia wakes up content and happy as web design expert, living in a beautiful mountainous home with the man of her dreams and her beautiful huskies, only to be abruptly transformed into a nurse, bedpan in one hand, vomit in the other!
The Art of Caring while Cursing!


It was a Monday morning and I timidly introduced myself to the charge sister. She welcomed me to the ward and told me that I’d begin my day by cleaning and tidying the ward. She barely got the chance to orientate me to the ward and routine when a team of doctors and nurses came bursting through the ICU doors wheeling in a woman on a stretcher. Something was not right. I sunk back and watched as everything went swiftly into motion. It took a moment for me to realize that I was witnessing a resuscitation.


Nurse get adrenaline now!

To my horror I realized the instruction was directed at me! I was a pupil nurse, and it was my first day of training! She might as well have asked someone off the street to assist. I ran quickly to where I thought the meds would be kept and rummaged through the cupboard. Nothing labelled Adrenaline! Panicking and knowing exactly what was as stake for my incompetence, I quickly shouted for help. An angel in the form of a male nurse came to my rescue. He told me not to worry and he quickly grabbed a few bottles labelled ‘Epinephrine’, drew them up and handed them over to the doctor. I felt terrified. Once again I could do nothing but watch her struggle. The patient, Mrs Khosa, an African woman in her late fifties wore traditional African attire, accessorized with beads around her neck and wrists. The nurses and doctors surrounded this lady and pumped her full of drugs and oxygen. She struggled against them, she seemed to be in excruciating pain as they shoved tubes down her nostril and stuck needles in her arms. Her hands were being pinned down to the bed. Tears rolled down her cheeks and I think she realized right then that these were the last moments of her life. She spent her last moments struggling against a team of medical staff that refused to let her rest.


1, 2, 3! CLEAR!

They press the defibrillator to her chest and her body jerks violently. The beads she wore fell apart and rolled all over the green tiles. I watch them fall and roll away almost in slow motion. Her pretty dress tears at the seams. The helplessness of watching a person die made me want to do something. A bead rolls toward me and stops at my feet. I pick it up as quickly as possible as though I’m being helpful to the lady that is dying in front of me by safeguarding her things.

and when I look up again, the nurses and doctors have cleared the area. Flat line. She’s gone. Sr. Sterile orders me to move the body into the next room and begin the last offices.

Next on Nursing Habits: The aftermath of this death and how it changed my life forever.
The Last Offices.

Episode 1 – Nursing: The art of caring while cursing!

I am a web designer turned nurse turning web designer and I have about 74 days of nursing left in me. Follow my blog for an insightful journey into the life of a nurse.

A  beautiful bright full moon shines prettily upon the pitch black sky. I take a deep breathe and smile as I take in the beauty of the world I am living in. It’s full of awesomeness. Real awesomeness in the true sense of the word.  My world! So perfect, so delicious, so grand. A humble abode upon a peaceful mountain combined with the divine company of my love, Josh and our totally bodacious bouncy huskies! I take a sip of red wine and the taste of success teases my lips. But my palms start to sweat, deep down somewhere in my sub-conscience I know that something terrible is about to happen in exactly one minute! I pray for that minute to last an hour. Just let me enjoy the tranquillity of my world a little bit longer? The cool droplets on the wine glass begin to evaporate. Everything around me rapidly breaks apart and dissipates into darkness.






I  jump out of bed to shut that damn cock clock the cluck up! Damn it! It was just a dream. Once again it was just a dream! I look around me. To my relief, not all is lost. Josh and my huskies are there, sound asleep and beautiful. But my world is very different. The ease I felt in my dream is now replaced with dread. I duck under the covers wanting to spend the rest of the day with my babe, insufferably aware that it would not be possible to do so. I had to go be a nurse for the next 12 hours..Oh boy!




Next on Nursing Habits: Arkadia face to face with her first dead patient!
My first day and the dead woman